Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lane Kiffin Hearts Rich Rodriguez

You gotta think that Lane Kiffin is up there in Knoxville loving the fact that there is another relatively young head coach at a storied program in a major conference is getting in a lot of trouble and taking the focus of of him. I wonder if he will send Rich Rodriguez a thank you note, lol.

Rich Rodriguez and Mike Barwis will never say this, but the impression I got was that they thought Michigan was soft.

That was after spending a couple of days last summer in Ann Arbor chronicling the new regime brought in from West Virginia. This was before 3-9, before the end of Michigan's 33-year bowl streak. This was a look at a young, aggressive staff -- Rodriguez the head coach, Barwis the strength coach -- getting ready to rip up the rug and put in entirely new carpet. So to speak.

"It's definitely a culture change," former defensive back Morgan Trent told me. "What first hit us was the strength and conditioning aspect. The lifts we were doing, that was the biggest culture shock. That was rough, it still is rough.

"It's fun to see your body change. Gaining weight and gaining muscle, getting in true shape."

Those words echoed after reading the results of a report in the Detroit Free Press of Michigan's alleged violations of NCAA weekly work limits for athletes.

The Freep quotes several anonymous sources -- parents and players -- saying that the Michigan staff overworked players. Before reading the entire account, my first reaction was, "So what? I bet every program fudges a little bit on the 20-hour NCAA work week."

There is no gray area in the Freep report. The story is solid and well reported, although it was a bit troubling that not one of the accusing sources went on the record. The Freep said the sources feared repercussions from the coaching staff. I'll buy that. Sooner or later, though, names are going to have to be attached with comments.

Sunday's in-season routine at Michigan was especially troubling. Into the facility early in the morning after a game, four hours of lifting, team meetings, perhaps not home until 10 p.m. Some schools have their mandatory off day on Sundays during the season. Even if players aren't off, I can't think of one program that works players to that extent the day after a game.

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